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BASHKORTOSTAN. Overwhelming Catastrophes
he Bashkirs were the first to wrench from the bolsheviks the status of
an autonomous republic and this blazed the way for all the other
minorities and ultimately for the union republics.
In the post communist Russia of 1992 all her autonomous
republics, areas, national regions and districts are determined to alter
their present status and become full fledged members of the Russian
Federation. In other words, all the provinces now are striving for real
sovereignty and none of them wishes to stay hostage of the imperial
ambitions of the Kremlin.
The population of Bashkortostan (before 1991 this autonomous and
later a constituent republic of the Soviet Union was named Bashkiria) is
slightly over 4 million with 1 million living in Ufa, the capital city of the
republic. Ethnic Bashkirs make only 22% of the population and their
share in the population of Ufa is not more than 12%. The percentage of
other nations in the population of the republic is: Russians  40%,
Tartars — 28%, Chuvashes — 3%. Only 16% of the republic’s residents
regard Bashkirian their native language.
But, strictly speaking, only those are fluent in the Bashkirian lan
guage who use it professionally  philologists, journalists, theatre and
film actors, teachers. Some of the linguists are inclined to regard the
language used by the Tartars residing in the Republic, and western
Bashkirs as a separate dialect of the Bashkirian language. Four is the

number of the languages used in the republic as a medium of instruc
tion at school, in the mass media, in the theatre and by folk art groups.
Bashkortostan has a parliament (Supreme Council) of its own.
In March 1992 Moscow granted export quota to Bashkortostan 9%
of the oil products manufactured in the republic, and 16% of the extract
ed oil. Bashkortostan produces 32 million tonnes of oil annually, which
is about what is produced in Kuwait. Also, the difference between the
prices of oil within the USSR (averagely 25 roubles per tonne in 1991)
and in the rest of the world ($I40 180 per tonne) have always been
incompatible all the more so that in 1991 the unofficial exchange rate
was about 100 roubles in cash for one dollar.
Bashkiria, one of the largest republics within the Russian
Federation, attracts the attention of business circles by its relative sta
bility. It was the only republic in the Federation that could keep its out
put in 1991 at the level of the previous year regardless of the general dis
integration and rupture of economic ties.
80% of all Russia’s petrol is manufactured at the oil refineries in Ufa
and Bashkir petroleum chemistry still retains the first place in Russia.
Reforms in Bashkortostan are quite likely to go the Hungarian way
because the Bashkir government s official adviser is Demyan Sandor
‘the father of Hungary’s market economy. Also, Ufa has a stock exchange
with a most up to date communications centre a stock exchange bank,
a network of trade houses, a transport and freight and insurance com
The automobile and aircraft engines made in Ufa are exported to 35
countries and in 1992 the local industries received credits from
George Vachnadze

Austrian, US, Italian and Spanish banks and companies. The aircraft
factory in Kumertau is famous for its modifications of military and civil
KA 32 helicopters and other equipment and gear for paratroopers.
These helicopters are exported to 12 countries.
The republic is striving to get direct access to the world market. It is
a matter of life and death To begin with, Bashkortostan opened its trade
representation in Austria (summer 1992) through which it expects to
implement three large scale projects, totally worth over $100 million.
The first project envisages granting the republic a credit with 3% annu
al interest, the second for purchasing goods, the third for reconstruc
tion of a number of industries on the territory of the republic, including
the «Khimvolokno» chemical plant and the Ufa’ s airport. The
International Financial Corporation DCI has undertaken the functions
of a financial guarantor (replacing the bankrupt VNESHEKONOMBANK)
providing some 10% of the entire cost of the credit As a political guaran
tee they recommend that the Supreme Council of Bashkortostan adopt a
special resolution. And this resolution was adopted, and on a sufficient
ly sound legal basis, too it is Russian Presidents decree No. 197 dated
February 27, 1992, granting Bashkortostan the right to independently
realize part of the oil and oil products manufactured in the republic, this
decree is further supported by a relevant resolution of Russia’s Cabinet
of ministers on top of all that there is Bashkortostan’s annex to the
Federal Treaty, signed by Yeltsin and Khasbulatov, according to which
Bashkortostan shall be an independent participant in the international
and external economic relations except those which have been voluntar
ily ceded to the Russian Federation by the signatories of the treaty
Further, on August 10, 1991, the Supreme Council of the Republic
adopted a law «ON FOREIGN INVESTMENTS» which had been scruti
nized by reliable law companies in the West and found to be excellent.
Asked by a Nezovismaya Gazeta (Apr 21, 1992) correspondent about
the number of the staff and the office premises of Bashkortostan’s. Trade
Representation, the Chairman of the Republic’s State Committee for
External Economic Relations Rafil Garifullin said that the Republic need
ed one or two employees. «We may come to make arrangements with the
Russian Embassy,» he added, «but if they are short of office space, we
shall easily find it at companies we cooperate with».
In the course of negotiations, the Austrian side accepted the proposal to
conclude a bilateral agreement with the autonomous republic following the
model of that between Hungary and Bashkortostan jncidentally, Hungary
has already opened its trade representation in Ufa. Also willing to sign such
an agreement are Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, some of the United States and
Canadian provinces and some lands of the Federal Repubbc of Germany.
Bashkortostan s activities at the world market dismay the Centre,
whose recommendations according to Ganfullin can practically be
expressed in one phrase: «Why don t you folks, just stay put?» In
January he asked for some experts to be sent down from Moscow to test
Russia’s Hotbeds of Tension

the qualification level of Bashkir specialists with regard to issuing
licences for the oil products featuring in Yeltsin s decree. No reply ever
came, as a result, the first tank truck of oil products rolled off to the
customer only at the end of March, and a quarter of the year was thus
lost. Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations, trying to solve all
the problems in Moscow, cannot settle the problem of export in good time
trying to monopolize the solution of all the problems and since all the
plethora of economic problems from all over Russia has to go through
the eye of the needle of the Council s staff, Bashkortostan loses time,
hard currency, confidence of the partners and contracts. Moreover, the
Ministry s staff doesn t have a single officer specifically incumbent to
deal with Bashkir problems.
«They have never called us here to ask how things are» — says
Ganfulhn, «since Russian Ministries don’ t seem to care for cooperation
with us, we, being left to our own devices, have to reinvest the potters
wheel and learn by our mistakes, which we could have otherwise never
made Russia’s representatives will not be weaned from their old procliv
ity to render economical problems a political tinge. There is no mutual
understanding between us and the Centre and this entails all kinds of
suspicions and triggers talk about secession from Russia, about isola
tion. Therefore, currently, whenever any technical problems arise, we are
compelled to make strong worded statements and that at the highest
levels, too. So, under the circumstances we have to stick to the principle
if you want to move forward, you have to face confrontation…».
Nuclear Bursts to Benefit the Economy? When the former Soviet peo
ple hear the names «Ufa» and «Bashkiria» thy immediately recollect by asso
ciation three disastrous accidents that took place there in recent years.
From 1960 through 1980 Bashkiria was the site of underground
nuclear explosions allegedly earned out for the sake of increasing the
extraction of oil. All the explosions were made in a densely populated
area near the cities of Meleuz, Kumertau, Salavat, Ishimbai. Within the
distance of 1 to 10 km from the epicentre of the blasts there were dozens
of villages, and the authorities have never bothered to relocate the pop
ulation These expenments were made under the guise of «civil defence
drills». After atomic blasts near Sterhtamak contaminated radioactive
water penetrated into drinking wells and even surfaced There were
instances of escape of radioactive oil and gas. Ever since then both oil
men and local farmers have been dying from the radiation sickness and
its side effects. The state as represented by Moscow authorities and the
military  industrial complex will not plead guilty of these inhuman
expenments, the victims have never got either pensions or special com
pensations for the damages to their health.
On the 4th of July on the Ufa Chelyabinsk railway, near Asha, there
was a crash that now rates the biggest in the world. In a depression
brimming full of natural gas that had been leaking from a defective pipe
two passenger trains were fated to meet on parallel tracks, running at
George Vachnadze

full speed, one from Adler to Novosibirsk and the other from Novosibirsk
to Adler. One spark from under the wheels was enough to prime an
explosion that swept both trains off the tracks with 575 passengers
burning to death while still alive, and 623 passengers crippled and
essentially burnt (of whom 90 died later). 
Two years later the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation sat in
Ufa and condemned seven third rate railway officers, while the actual
culprits: all the Soviet oil and gas generals who, in Moscow offices had
designed «the longest bomb in the world» got away with it.
The whole structure was jerry built, the cheaper and the quicker
the better, to make things worse the pipelines were laid along railway
tracks and in the vicinity of towns and villages. All this was done in vio
lation of prohibition on building such structures imposed by
Glavgosekspertiza (State Panel of Experts) of the USSR State Committee
for Construction. The world practice is to process the lethal WLHD (wide
light hydrocarbon distillate) right where it is obtained and never to pipe
it thousand of kilometers away. After the Supreme Court ruling, the
Ministry of Oil and Gas Structures Building of the USSR that had
emerged unscathed, planned, in summer 1991, to build another (sic!)
similar (sic!) pipeline from Tyumen to Tatarstan (3,841 km).
The authorities of the sovereign Bashkortostan, responsible to their
own nation, would have never given their consent for building the major
ity of ecologically hazardous industries on the territory of their republic.
But before 1991, local authorities had no say in such matters everything
was decided up in Moscow.
Ufa is surrounded by a ring of largest petrochemical plants, and the
situation around Salavat, Sterlitamak and Ishimbai is no better the pop
ulation of these cities live in extreme ecologic conditions.
Millions of tonnes of toxic waste products have been accumulated
on the territory of Bashkiria, and a considerable part of them are lethal
ly hazardous. The policy pursued by Union ministries of the former
USSR can only be described as ecologic banditism.
In spring 1990, the population of Ufa drank a good deal of tap water
contaminated with phenol and dioxine, the latter being the deadliest
synthetic poison on our planet. A year later, this case was tried in court,
which heard the evidence of 1,139 residents of the city whose chronic
condition had been deteriorating due to the substandard drinking water.
In August 1990, preliminary censorship in the USSR was lifted, and
several months later two more horrible facts were exposed by the media
The «Khimprom» Corporation which has once contaminated the water
supply system with toxines, has, in actual fact, been doing it all the time
and is not going to put an end to it, defying the expostulations of the
local authorities. The thing is that the majority of large and medium
undustrial enterprises in the Republic were operating under direct
Moscow administration and Moscow officials were reluctant to spend
money on reconstruction.
Russia’s Hotbeds of Tension

One of the factories in Ufa manufactured herbicides using far out
dated technology and poisoned the atmosphere and rivers with dioxine.
The municipal authorities pressurized the Third Chief Administration of
the Ministry of Health of the USSR to make an official statement on the
fact. It was then revealed that about 130 km. of dioxine flows in the
water in the river Ufa every day. Compare it with the Americans having
used only 200 kg of this poison during the whole war in Viet Nam. The
permitted content of dioxine in the environment in the USA is 15 times
lower than that allowed in the USSR. And that is the theory, while in
practice the Ufa authorities made the city’s residents drink water where
the concentration of dioxine exceeded the permitted limit from 50 to 147
thousand times! When these figures were revealed, everyone in Ufa was
profoundly shocked.
Dioxine is a genetic poison, a scourge of many future generations to
come. In 1991, the incidence of cancer in Ufa was twice that of 1960.
Children here suffer from bronchial asthma 5 6 times more more often
than they did 15 years ago, while anaemia occurs among them two or
three times more frequently than earlier. Deputies of the City Council
demanded that Ufa be officially proclaimed a zone of ecologic disaster.
The local authorities succeeded in persuading Moscow to discontinue
the construction of the Bashkir atomic power station.
Independence and economic sovereignty came to Bashkortostan in
good time, for its territory is virtually prone to ecologic disasters. And
small wonder: qualistechnologia talisecologia!
Every year Russia suffers from up to 700 accidents when large oil and
gas pipe lines ruptures, one of the reasons being insufficient strength of
pipes (cf. of ships pipes are twice as strong and accidents are less frequent).
Another major explosion which claimed many human lives took
place at the Ufa refinery in September 1992, halting the production of
aviation fuel, which is in such short supply in Russia and other
Commonwealth states. Vice Premier Valery Makharadze, who came to
the accident site, agreed with specialists that one must not use equip
ment with 90% of depreciation. But the bulk of petrochemical enterpris
es and refineries of Bashkortostan use exactly such equipment.
To be the master of one’s own country. Bashkortostan is Russia’s
leader in the number of accidents. Samara Region on the Volga has
15,000 kilometres of mainlines and local oil and gas pipelines, or five
metres of time bombs per each resident of the region, the State
Committee for Emergencies says. So, pipelines blow up and burn not
only in Bashkortostan. Data on accidents in heat conduits further com
plicates the picture.
What should we do? Victims of dioxin poisoning should be paid
compensations for the rest of their life. There should be legal responsi
bility for supplying poisoned water to the people, meanwhile, each Ufa
resident (or better still, every other resident of Russia) should be issued
a plastic container with coal filters to purify drinking water.
George Vachnadze

Politically, each day shows to the Bashkortostan leaders elected by
the people that the should tackle all their problems independently. At
least Russians, Bashkirs and Tartars living in that small republic on the
Volga think so.
I have already mentioned the resolution of President Yeltsin which
allowed Bashkortostan to dispose of 75% of its hard currency revenues
from the sale of 9 16% of oil and oil products abroad. Gaidar’s government
made the resolution invalid by taking an opposite decision half a year later.
The leaders of Bashkiria, Tatarstan and Yakutia issued a joint statement
denouncing the practice of the Moscow centre violating commitments
which it itself had approved. Owing to difference of opinion, the Russian
President, Parliament and government cannot coordinate their actions
and, worse still, regularly invalidate the decisions of each other. As a result,
the provinces and the bulk of Russia’s regions and republics suffer.
Murtaza Rakhimov, chairman of the Supreme Soviet of
Bashkortostan, noted that only the Constitutional Court can invalidate
Presidential decisions and that Moscow should observe the terms of the
Federative Treaty and supplements to it, which say that Bashkortostan
is independent as regards the formation of its budget.
Rakhimov told Nezauisimoya Gazeta (Aug. 18, 1992) that Russia
has in actual fact blockaded the republic financially. «In reply we can
throw the switch on pipelines and Russia will remain without oil and
gas. But we don’t do this. [Russia] should respect republics; we should
sit down and determine who owes what and to whom. For 75 years con
tinued the blood  letting of the republics, which have acute ecological
problems, and now they again want us to live as before. No, this will no
do. I have been criticised for signing the Federative Treaty and warned
that I should not believe the Russian government Regrettably, I tend to
think that my critics were right. But we will not turn back.»
In October 1992 the heads of Russian ex autonomous formations
had a highly satisfactory meeting with Yeltsin. The Council of the Heads
of Republics was established at the President, and Yeltsin himself saw
that it is impossible to control such a vast federation from the centre
meaning in conditions of a democratic country, of course.
Russian enfants terribles Bashkortostan and Tatarstan have
devised a counterbalance against Moscow’s pressure. In August 1992
Bashkortostan’s Murtaza Rakhimov and Minitmer Shaimiyev, President
of Tatarstan, went to the neighbouring Uralsk for a meeting with the
Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev. Reading between the lines of
the official communique of the meeting, I could get the impression that
those who have oil and grain have nothing to fear.
So far religious authority in the Moslem republic of Bashkortostan
rest in the hands of Talgat Tadjuddin, head of the Moslem Board of the
European Part of the Commonwealth and Siberia, headquartered in Ufa.
Mufti Tadjuddin attended the inauguration of a mosque in Vilnius,
supervises the construction of 250 mosques on his territory, sends hun
Russia’s Hotbeds of Tension

dreds of young people for training in religious institutes in Turkey and
Egypt and tours the world collecting donations to the construction of
religious schools in Russia. He holds the ring of Belief keeping ravaged
Russia together. That is why he has so many opponents who have creat
ed independent Moslem boards in Bashkortostan and neighbouring
By the beginning of 1993 the Supreme Soviet of Bashkortostan
forced Moscow to grant the national bank of the republic maximum pow
ers taking into account the fact that the republic is still within the rou
ble zone.
The construction of an international airport is in full swing in Ufa. But
there are bnghter sides in Bashkinan life. The Republic has coaches train
ing horse nders and their months at a special school the only one of its
kind in Russia. Riders from stud farm Tulpar (the Mazhit Gafun collective
farm) have won first pnzes at many national and international contests.
BURYATIA. Buddhism Revived
n 1991 this republic beyond Lake Baikal was raised to the status and
dignity of a Union republic from a formerly autonomous republic and a
year later it reinstated its original name of Buryat Mongolia.
Having become a full fledged sovereign republic within the Russian
Federation this former autonomy instituted the post of president adopt
ed a law on the republic’s citizenship and a new constitution of its own.
The newly elected parliament contested as illegal the partition of the
Buryat  Mongolian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in 1937 into
several smaller formations due to which for half a century the country
was divided into the Republic of Buryatia and two national regions, given
over under the jurisdiction of the Chita and the Irkutsk regions. This
was done with a view to crushing and oppressing Buddhism the basis of
the language, culture and lifestyle of the Buryats.
That s how, in the course of half a century the Buryats have lost
their mother tongue and became another Russian  speaking nation It
was only in 1991 that teaching of the Buryat language was reinstated in
secondary and higher schools and a Department of Buryat philology was
opened at the local Teachers’ Training Institute The young people of the
Republic don’ t know the Buryat language, do not read their national lit
erature, do not listen to their national music And Buryat culture with its
old Mongolian language is closely connected with Buddhiss a philoso
phy soaring at the highest intellectual and aesthetic level!
On Lake Baikal. Some 340 thousand Buryats live in the vicinity of
Lake Baikal They make only 24% of the population (over 1.5 million) and
are actually a national minority in their own republic Buryat intelli
gentsia was almost entirely wiped out in the 1930s by the Stalin regime.
George Vachnadze

Now, when ban on religion has been lifted the national culture of the
Buryats tends to be reviving.
At the end of the 19th century the Transbaikal area was home for 15
000 lamas Buddhist pnests (Lamaism one of the principal forms of
Buddhism had come here many centuries ago through Tibet and
Today Buryatia scarcely has 50 of them. They obtain a higher religious
education at the Ulan Bator Buddhist Institute in Mongolia and upgrade
their knowledge in India. A new generation of lamas for 19 Buddhist com
munities in Buryatia, Tuva, Kalmykia, Moscow and St. Petersburg is also
being trained at a recently opened school in the Ivolgin datsan (monastery)
not far from Buryatia s capital Ulan Ude Other Buddhist monasteries are
also being restored in the Republic. The oldest of them the Anninsk dat
san, destroyed by the Soviets is now being rebuilt. In the Central State
Archives of Buryatia there is a document according to which the cultic
objects and other property of the Anninsk oatsan are worth 1 million gold
en roubles in the Emperor Nicholas II gold com
Buryat lamas attract numerous pilgrims from all over Russia.
Devout believers, sick people come here with a hope to restore their
health with the help of the mystenous medicine. The lamas welcome all
guests from the British Princess Anne and Russia’s President Yeltsin to
foreign tounsts and hundreds of local visitors.
Since 1992 Buryatia has been a self governing independent state
and ownsits land and the subsoils. This encourages hopes to save the
ecology in the area of Lake Baikal and the Sayan Mountain range.
Currently, however, the 200 nvers falling into the Lake Baikal a huge and
Russia’s Hotbeds of Tension

the most beautiful natural reservoir of the cleanest fresh water in the
world pour into it a great deal of industrial waste.
70% of Lake Baikal s literal and two thirds of its water table are in
Buryatia Baikal is a unique phenomenon. Hydrochemically, its water has
no analogues anywhere on the globe; it is a natural reservoir holding one
fifth of all fresh water of our planet. And in terms of drinking water this
miraculous lake contains half of the world’s reserves, and a better half of
that. The organic life of the lake provides for natural purification of the
water and so far is functioning faultlessly, keeping the water clean and
clear. However, these endemic organisms can live only in such clean habi
tat (media): they die in the Angara river, the only outflow of the lake through
the water in this nver can scarcely be distinguished from that of the lake.
This lake, very often referred to as the Siberian sea, generates crys
tal clear water fully saturated with oxygen even at the bottom which is
at a depth exceeding 1.5 km (approximately 5,000 ft). Baikal contains
more water than the Baltic Sea. Every year the lake produced addition
al 60 billion cubic metres of this priceless liquid mineral. If we set our
selves the task of obtaining as much desalinated water (I insist on
desalinated and not that amazing cocktail of useful microelements that
the Baikal water is), we would have to spend $2.5 trillion. In other
words: all the gold so far extracted from the depth of our planet is worth
25 times less.
Out of 10 human beings inhabiting the earth only one drinks natu
ral water. All the others dnnk desalinated water treated with various
chemicals and chlorinated. Natural spnng water (and Lake Baikal is
brimming exactly with this kind of it) costs a pretty penny. The Baikal
Limnologic Institute, along with multiple research, tried, though in
vain to convince Moscow not to foul the lake. And although the USSR
government issued decrees and orders, nobody fulfilled them. What we
have up to this day is promises to close down the notonous pulp and
paper mill that drains into the lake 250 thousand cubic metres of waste
every day.
Now, if clean water is pumped up form the depth of the lake, filtered
through sand, cooled down to +3C, saturated with carbon dioxide as
preservative, bottled and sold abroad at $2 a 1,5 litre bottle, making $1
profit from each bottle sold.
Our drinkmg water has been attracting the attention of the Persian
Gulf countries for quite a long time. Buryatia is going to build a few
small workshops for pumping and bottling Baikal water to be then sent
to disaster stricken areas,  Chernobyl, in the first place.
But bottling began only in 1992 by order of the Russian government.
And before that nobody was allowed to take even a drop neither
Russians, nor foreigners. If Buryatia had her way, could it have had the
idea of building bottling shops years ago? Or sell the famous «omul  a
unique variety of salmon, endemic to Lake Baikal, described here as
tsar  fish and still found in the waters of this lake? The presidents of the
George Vachnadze

USA and Russia announced in 1992 their intention to preserve the
unique ecosystem of Lake Baikal.
And to keep Baikal healthy is a sophisticated task. In his decree on
measures to maintain the development of Buryatia’s economy, signed in
March 1992, B. Yeltsin made it incumbent on the government of
Buryatia and administration of the Chita and Irkutsk regions to work
out a state programme for protection of this area and utilization of its
natural resources. The Government of Buryatia set up an international
scientific centre jointly with the USA Centre for the problems of the
American Great Lakes. The entire system of utilization of land hundreds
of miles around Baikal is to be reviewed from the ecologic standpoint.
After the abortive putsch in August 1991, Buryatia got a gift from the
Transbaikal military district and the High Command of the troops in the Far
East:  they returned to the Republic 23,000 hectares of fertile land (only a
small fraction of the huge territories occupied by tankodromes, shooting
grounds and other military objects. The Chief Commander s Headquarters
is located near Ulan Ude, and its Chief Commanding officer Colonel General
A. Kovtunov represents Buryatia in the Russian Parliament. Already in
1992 the balance of forces in the Republic changed. Her parliament, her
President and her Supreme court are much weightier than the commanding
officers of any armed forces stationed here The power of Moscow viceroys in
Buryatia came to an end with the collapse of the USSR.
Buryatia started, on her own, active trade simultaneously with the
Chinese People’s Republic and Taiwan and strengthened economic coop
eration with neighbouring Mongolia her chief foreign partner. Now there
are direct flights between Ulan Ude and Ulan Bator.
In March 1992 The Supreme Council of Buryatia endorsed a decree
issued by the Government and exempting investors on the projects in
the Republic s territory from taxes for several years. New commercial
banks and stock exchange have been opened. External economic rela
tions of the Republic are managed by a special cabinet minister the
charming Signora Claudia Godigna, bom in Italy and holding an Italian
passport She believes that international tourism is a very promising
prospect and not only because the Buddhist centre of Russia and the
whole former USSR is situated here.
Very prospective also are organized tours of hunters, who will be
issued licences for gunning Manchunan deer, elk, brown bear Buryatia
exports pelts and furs, cedar nuts, bemes, mushrooms, medicinal raw
materials, game animal flesh. In the Chita, Irkutsk regions and in
Buryatia proper, four fifths of the bulk of export for foreign currency are
made up by umber, woodpulp and non ferrous metals. So raw matenals
account for 70% of the Republic s export. But raw matenals are a lot
cheaper than finished product.
Up to recently the local authorities were not very interested in boost
ing up their business activities because Moscow grabbed 80% of the
hard cash the Republic earned. The manufacturing plants were allowe to
Russia’s Hotbeds of Tension

keep 20%, of which only 5% (i.e 1% of the original sum) went to the budg
et of the local authorities. All this concerns timber and lumber. But as
for pulp and paper, Moscow took all the 100% of the currency it fetched.
Almost the same picture was observable in other groups of exported
commodities. With the end of the Soviet Union, Moscow’s share in the
foreign exchange earned by Buryatia was dramatically cut.
Now Buryat leaders are prepared to step up their activities Buryati’s
territory is 352,000 sq km Total lumber reserves are estimated at 1.890
billion cubic metres. The annual cuttings at 4 5 million cubic metres (cf
the territory of Finland is 338,000 sq km with lumber reserves being 1.6
billion tonnes and the annual cuttings being 45 million cubic metres). It
is abundantly clear that if logging and pulp and paper making are con
trolled not by the former USSR Ministry of the Intenor with its prisoners
and hard labour camps, but by local and visiting entrepreneurs,
Buryatia’s optimism will be justified.
Return to common sense. Buryatia wanted to become one of the first
in Russia to get privatization vouchers in the autumn of 1992 and to start
privatization as son as possible. It planned to begin with twenty major tim
ber enterprises, which were to be turned into joint stock companies.
It was expected that the new owners of the enterprises would abandon
the barbarous Soviet method of felling trees, when a bunch of twenty
metre tall trees is pulled by a dragging tractor, which destroys grass and
underbush in the process. The trail of these tractors are well seen fifteen
years afterwards. The new owners were expected to find the money and
deem it profitable for them to buy foreign equipment on wheels, using
which four fellers working in two shifts can procure 40,000 50,000 cubic
metres a year without destroying nature in the process.
We need hard currency? Why not demand it from those who built the
Baikal Amur Mainline? The railway went along Lake Baikal disfiguring a
vast area at the unique lake with hundreds of station buildings, ware
houses and dwellings, barracks and industrial enterprises. Who will
answer for spending fantastic sums of money on the construction of the
15 kilometre long Severomuisk railway tunnel which has not been fin
ished yet? There were about thirty projects for building the road across the
ridge, but the criminally negligent prospectors chose the worst a zone of
small and big fissures. As a result the BAM is ready, but the tunnel is not.
Ulan Ude has hard currency. Fifty thousand workers of the local air
craft making plant are turning out three models of combat helicopters
and their numerous civilian modifications. Out aircraft making facto
ries used to produce only one model Kazan produced the Mi 8,
Komsomolsk on Amur produced Simonov’s aircraft, and Kumertau in
Bashkiria, Kamov’s helicopter. The Ulan Ude aircraft making plant has
its own bank and does not get money or resources regularly from the
centre. They acquire whatever they need themselves, producing 100 hel
icopters a year, selling some 20 to the military departments of Russia
and selling the rest to China. The plant pledged to repair its helicopters
George Vachnadze

In special shops in Magadan, Novosibirsk and Khabarovsk and guaran
tees technical servicing in places where their helicopters work.
Yuri Kravtsov, 50 director of the plant, is on the Buryatian govern
ment. He has proved that he understands development problems of
Buryatia much better than those who try governing the republic from
Khrushchev, Brezhnev and Gorbachev thought nothing of sacrific
ing Baikal when they ordered the construction of a pulp and paper mill
on its shores without purification equipment, designed to produce super
heat resistant viscose cord «super super» for tyres for military aircraft.
Only the unique clean water of Baikal (with its unchanging chemi
cal composition) could be used for the production of cord which must
withstand the temperature of up to 3,000 degrees C during take off and
landing, to minus 60 at high altitudes. No matter how large the revenues
from the sale of cellulose, they could no bring the mill more than 200
million roubles a year in the pre reform 1990 prices.
Meanwhile, the sale of one twentieth of Baikal’s water used by the
mill in bottles could earn six billion dollars a year. But can you imagine
our general secretanes as much as thinking about allowing local author
ities to earn an extra rouble or catering to the health of the people by
providing them with fresh water? Our leaders knew well that the average
Soviet citizen will live till the age of 55 even despite drinking polluted
Now that Buryatia has broken out of the bonds of control of Moscow
rulers, it will try to relieve Baikal from extra ecological pressure, such as
the East Siberian Shipping Lines, which transport up to 15 million
tonnes of cargo, including oil products, a year, or the barges with timber
shuttling to the timber processing mill and back, leaving in their wake
hundreds of trees rotting in the pure waters of Baikal.
Yeltsin can be regarded as a saint by the people if he had started to
purify drinking water with activated carbon instead of chlorine Russia is
the only country in the world not to mass produce ecologically safe drink
ing water. We need laws binding economic managers to create systems for
recycling water and in general to save water, under the threat of large
fines for violating them Meanwhile Russia is dying largely because of pol
luted water. We still purify drinking water with chlorine although a high
frequency industrial water ozonator was patented by Yu. Yemelyanov, of
Moscow State University, in this country and eleven other countries in
1964. His method of purifying water is regarded as very effective but
expensive for us, of course. Other countries have long been using it.
One example of the return of common sense in Buryatia lone is the
restoration of 20 Buddhist temples. The monks, some of them as old as
95, have climbed down from the mountains where they spent a great

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